Street Fighter II V – episodes 1 to 7

January 23, 2005 on 1:36 pm | In Street Fighter | Comments Off on Street Fighter II V – episodes 1 to 7

“They go to meet the mighty”. Often you can get a feeling for an anime series by the way the previews are signed off. Many, such as Rurouni Kenshin, have the generic “please look forward to it”. Evangelion memorably had Mitsuishi Kotono promising “Next time, service service!” each week until that became grossly inappropriate for the series. City Hunter 2 has Kaori delivering a different threat each week: “don’t watch it and get the hammer” eventually becomes “if you don’t watch it, you’ll get the death penalty!”, and then “If you don’t watch it, someone will look at your panties!”.
So, when you finish an episode of Street Fighter II V and the legendary Ohtsuka Akio signs off with “They go to meet the mighty” in a serious passionate voice, you know you’re in for something good. That simple phrase encapsulates the essence of this anime.

Street Fighter II V is a rare example of good fighting game anime. This is because it does not really treat itself as such: fighting game anime tend to have overblown and/or flatly ridiculous plots (Invisible dinosaurs, anyone?), but Street Fighter II V is really a buddy world-travelling anime, a quest for self-improvement in the form of martial arts.
Ryu works as a tree-feller on an island in Japan. One day he receives a letter from his old training partner Ken, containing money and air tickets and the message “Come to America”. And so Ryu goes to America and reunites Ken, the best American who ever did live.
In a bar fight, Ryu is knocked out by Sergeant Guile. Ken goes to Guile’s airbase, and is also knocked out. Realising that there are people in the world who are stronger than them, Ken and Ryu embark on a mission to travel the world and fight them. Their first stop is Hong Kong, where they meet Chun Li. It looks like their involvement with her is going to be important, as it has gained the attention of Ashura, the evillest of all drug-smuggling units in the Asian region. Foreshadowing at this point suggests that Ashura is working for a familiar organisation. Familiar, that is, to Street Fighter fans.

The adventures that Ryu and Ken get into are fun, and this is largely because they are such good friends. They never get too serious about become the ultimate fighters, as what they really want to do is have a good time. If that involves beating people up, so be it. Chun Li is not too ditzy, and the three of them have good times together. When the series gets a little serious, it doesn’t take it too far. That makes all the difference. It could be forecast that there will be some sort of spiritual commentary involved later on, but Street Fighter II V is directed with a steady hand. This makes it difficult to be concerned about its future.

There are several key differences between Street Fighter II V and the video game that spawned it. The desire to not emphasise fidelity to its roots is something that liberates it from any doldrums. The first hint is that Ken has red hair rather than blonde. This is not a particularly revolutionary move, but it’s important enough to note that all of the characters’ backstories are not strictly the same as in the games – or that because the characters are only teenagers, they don’t have to worry about some of the terrors that have befallen them in their pixellated forms.
While I am familiar with the ideas behind Street Fighter II (note: only II, I don’t go in for all this “third impact” or “alpha” or “EX2” junk or whatever), I can’t say if a hardcore fan would like this series: that’s the beauty of it, there’s no need to have any sort of familiarity with the core influence. The only real question is why someone would let their seventeen year old son tour the world to get into fights: Ken and Ryu probably should have been aged a year. This, however, is a quibble.

The production values are relatively good, with Ken and Ryu probably at their best ever in anime. There has been a lot of ugly Street Fighter anime through the years, and while their eyebrows might stick out a little too far from their head they still look just fine. Chun Li looks attractive for once, and is in no way disproportionate. The only problem is with a few of the one-shot characters who did not have much thought put into them, and there are a few times where Ryu and Ken fight twins – therefore magically halving the character design requirements for a scene! Despite budget constraints, most battle scenes are fluid and enjoyable.
The in-show music is excellent to the highest degree. That is not to say that these are quality compositions, but they are so full of energy and add to the program’s enjoyment factor. The biggest disappointment comes not from CAPCOM’s treatment of the series, but rather Manga Entertainment’s. For a Manga Entertainment production, these DVDs are surprisingly good looking. What is unforgivable, however, is the fact that Manga saw fit to edit out both the OP and ED, replacing the OP with its own mixture of animation and set to some ultra-dramatic inappropriate composition by “Mike Egan and Critter”. The music is not terrible, but it definitely does not fit with the light-hearted nature of these early episodes.

Street Fighter II V makes liberal use of shorthand, sometimes blatantly obvious and others so blatantly obvious that they go unnoticed. Take the character of Ken: Ken lives in a mansion, surrounded by acres and acres of rich forest. When Ryu arrives in San Francisco, Ken’s parents are out to dinner with the President. Ken’s mother is Japanese, and so when his parents return home in their private jet, his father is wearing a tuxedo and his mother a kimono. She’s Japanese, you see.
The ridiculous nature of Ken’s richness is compounded when he goes to a hotel and orders the $20,000 Penthouse, that has its own heli-pad. That seems kind of dangerous, and could lead to kidnappings, but in such instances sense is not needed, only implication.
In the episode featuring Fei Long and Ken in a ridiculous outfit, there is a director character. He is not introduced at any point as a director, and it takes a few minutes to realise that the reason that you recognise him as such is because he is short, wears a beret, vest and sunglasses, has half a moustache on either side of his nose and waves a megaphone. This is a simple technique, but it is subliminally effective.
Despite all this, somehow it manages to get away without any cultural stereotyping – other than the obvious and necessary idea of Ken living the life of the inexplicably rich American.

Street Fighter II V is rare: it’s an enjoyable fighting game series. What this is is refreshing, possibly the definition of entertainment. You can’t go far wrong with this anime if you want light fun.

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